If you’re easily scared, a little squeamish or hate going through haunted mazes during Halloween, then Buzzfeed’s “Unsolved: True Crime” show is the perfect mystery show for you.
“Unsolved,” hosted by Shane Madej and Ryan Bergara, has two different series, both of which revolve around unsolved mysteries. While “Unsolved: Supernatural” is still partway through its fourth season, “Unsolved: True Crime” rounded off its fourth season with a treasure hunt that brought Madej and Bergara onto the field and into a physical environment, enacting Bergara’s theories in real time. While the pair hasn’t traveled to the scene of a crime since season two, this hands-on finale was the perfect way to finish a season that heavily strayed away from the stagnant storytelling format of the former three seasons. Bergara’s serious approach to these crimes is balanced with Madej’s sarcastic humor, which encourages the audience to feel less distraught about the violent crimes and more entertained by the weird details.
Out of the eight episodes in season four, only four deal directly with a possible murder. But most still deal with death, such as episode two “The Bizarre Collar Bomb Bank Robbery.” Compared to the previous three seasons, which largely consisted of murders and strange disappearances, most of the episodes in season four feature crimes in which murder was only one part of a large puzzle. Some mysteries were not even illegal — “The Treacherous Treasure Hunt of Forrest Fenn” opens the gate for Bergara to present well-known mysteries that are not crimes, something that breaks up the pattern of morbid curiosity from the different murders, deaths and disappearances.
Even though the mysteries are becoming increasingly varied than past seasons, the video editing and mystery portrayal has reverted back to the same style as in the early episodes of season two. In season three, episodes often had some form of live-action retelling of the crimes, which heightened the tension of the episodes by making it seem as though the audience is on the scene. Both “The Enigmatic Death of the Isdal Woman” and “The Thrilling Gardner Museum Heist” in season three had live-action scenes that played while Bergara explained the details of the case. In season four, however, there were no live-action sequences. The video-editing effects still delivered the same impact as Bergara’s enunciation, but they lacked the terror and clarity that comes with feeling as though you are in the moment of the crime. Along with adding to the atmosphere, live action would have helped the audience visualize some of the more intricate parts of certain mysteries. For instance, watching “The Incredible Alcatraz Prison Break” with live-action scenes would have made it easier to see how the men managed to pull off such an escape.
However “Unsolved” would not have been complete had it just been about the morbid crimes. Madej and Bergara both stepped up their comedic game when confronting the crimes in season four. Even though none of the theories presented in this season have been the most outlandish ever discussed on the show (“The Strange Deaths of the 9 Hikers of Dyatlov Pass” from season one had both Russian government cover-ups and alien abductions) the flavor text provided by our two resident detectives made up for the lack of ludicrous theories by giving ludicrous jokes. Madej’s suggestion that “the Mob seems very handy” to have around in “The Sinister Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa” is an opinion that Bergara immediately rejects, but it makes for one of many hilarious debates about morality. Ultimately, while Bergara plays the main role of storyteller, the audience empathizes with Madej, who is there along for the ride and who tries to wrap his own mind around the theories presented. Together, the two hosts create an environment that encourages thought and laughter rather fear of the unknown — here’s to hoping season five continues balancing comedy with mystery.